Dans Paris

Louis Garrel and Romain Duris in Dans Paris

 

 

Since The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Romain Duris has been pretty much the hottest name in French cinema. There’s plenty of opportunity for him to do some high intensity scowling in this claustrophobic drama about a family whose secret, its driving force, is depression. His dad (the excellent Guy Marchand) is clearly wrestling with it, his brother (Louis Garrel) has flown off in the other direction and is banging anything female that moves and now Paul (Duris) is in deep trouble too. There’s a bad attack of the narrative cutes at the outset of Christophe Honoré’s latest film, when Garrel turns to the camera and addresses it directly. But give the film a chance, because once it’s stopped playing with the fourth wall and is done with its naked homage to the French New Wave (Honoré was born in 1970 so is too young to have been a part of it), it is a quiet and unusual drama proceeding by oblique strategies and just the odd playful nod to Godard and the films of early 1960s Paris. It’s also, at times, quite spellbindingly odd.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 Dans Paris – at Amazon

 

 

 

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

 

 

Now here is a thing – a film that starts out as a sort of French Mean Streets but ends up in quite different territory. Romain Duris is the young Robert De Niro in question, a thug, we learn early on, with a heart of pure coal and with a surprising gift. He plays the piano like a maestro. Or used to. The film’s narrative tension springs from this internal split – is he going to carry on throwing squatters out onto the streets and smashing up their apartments so the developers can move in? Or is he going to return to the relaxed, elegant world of the piano? The masculine world of the mob or the feminine world of the academy? Money or Art? It’s a remake of James Toback’s ignored 1978 film Fingers, and that time round Harvey Keitel took the lead. So why not just go and get the older film out from Blockbuster (like they’d have it)? Because Duris is a mesmerising presence, because his opposite number – a Chinese pianist who speaks no French (played by the French/Vietnamese actress Linh-Dam Phan) – is too. And because, quite simply, director Jacques Audiard channels the tension so expertly that every scene, exchange and gesture is electrifying.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 

The Beat That My Heart Skipped – at Amazon